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HOLDOUT by Jeffrey Kluger


by Jeffrey Kluger

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-593-18469-1
Publisher: Dutton

Refusing to return to Earth after the International Space Station is badly damaged, American astronaut Walli Beckwith stages an unthinkable one-woman protest against the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

A malfunction has caused a cargo vehicle to collide with the space station, seriously injuring one of Beckwith's two Russian crew mates. Blowing off both Houston and Moscow, who guarantee she will serve a long prison term if she disobeys orders to make the return trip, she draws the wrath of world powers invested in the space station. And in lobbying the U.S. government to cancel Brazil's new "consolidation" policy, which is to set massive fires in the jungle to clear out tens of thousands of tribespeople, she creates political trouble for the two-faced, misogynistic American president. He wants no part of any intervention even when he says he does. Her campaign, which makes her a sensation on social media, resonates most strongly with her niece Sonia, a young volunteer doctor in the rainforest tending to the sick and homeless. Kluger, a Time veteran who has written several books about space including Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 (1994) with astronaut James Lovell, fuels the narrative with fascinating technical details. And the action scenes, including a spacewalk in which a fever-ridden Beckwith must repair a coolant system leaking lethal ammonia, are pretty gripping. But the heroine is mostly a collection of righteous intentions, and with the exception of a 5-year-old Guarani boy in Sonia's loving care, Kluger gives no voice to the tribespeople, presenting them as faceless victims.

A good adventure story undercut by its dated point of view.